I Quit

I quit my job last week.  I still don’t have a job.  We have no money (well, very little).  I have only sent out one application for a job that I might not get.

This is a picture that I would not want to paint for anyone, and certainly did not want to paint for myself.

Everything is wrong except the part where I tell God that I’ll obey Him.  Now it has taken me a while to obey Him, but I did it in the end.

I tried to work up an emotional frenzy to decide to obey.  I became angry and bitter, largely because I wanted an easier path to obedience.  I wanted assurances that obedience wouldn’t cost me more than I could afford, or that there would be a payoff I could see before I chose to obey.

Yeah, faith in God doesn’t work that way.

I knew the stories of the priests stepping into the raging Jordan River, the worshipers, not the soldiers, that lead the charge into battle, Ananias going to meet with the murderous Saul of Tarsus.  But I really wanted an easier path, one with less risk involved.

In the middle of it, when I am experiencing the turmoil of fears and a peace that is beyond understanding, do I get to see God.  Worship is different and has taken on new meaning, and that is good.

I don’t want my praise, my prayers to be lying platitudes to a God I don’t believe in.

I want to fly.

You might be a speed bump!

Chilling…

I work in a factory and have been very vocal about my faith.  I argue and witness and pray.

It felt like a slap the other day when one of them said, “you know for someone who knows the way, you sure act like a speed bump.”

I had been joking around, laughing, having fun, picking back and forth.  I, for the life of me, don’t know what I said.  All I know is, I heard that response and my world stopped.

I know I’m not amazing.  I know I’m as human, as flawed, as broken as any other person on the planet.  But, I pray and hope that my life, my words, my actions would point them to Jesus.  I also know I will fail, sometimes badly.

So, what do I do now?  What do we do when we’re faced with the fact that we have hindered people from seeing Jesus?

God, I come to you, admitting freely that I am not what I should be.  Holy Spirit, I say, with tears, that I have gotten in the way of you and expressed things other than your love and desire for every human being.  I have let anger and bitterness build walls around me and kept my heart closed to you and your voice.

Fill me again, live through me, smooth me out so that others can see you clearly.  Let me speak only what draws them to your presence.

Do you believe?

What started me on this journey of writing over these years was a belief that our real struggle in life is in what we believe.  Not what we intellectually assent to, but what we believe in our core.  I have sought to write about things that challenge the way I feel about the circumstances life throws at me.

I believe that this journey has lead me to a deeper place of faith,  a place where what I believe about my God, what I know about His love for me, is greater than it was three years ago.

So what do I do with that?

How do I act and live and love in return if He loves me so much and believes in me as much as He does?

I have learned to be bolder, to act as though I have power and life to give to my world.  I protect myself less and others more.  I am learning to do ridiculous things, request things pray for things that I have no business doing or asking for.  I find myself leading more and following less.

My knees are still knocking, and my heart still beats to fast.  I still remind myself that I’m too old, too broken, too stupid, too worthless, but I move anyway.  I hear the condemnation from my enemy and the ridicule from those who are broken like me, but I step out.

What’s coming next?  I’m not sure.

But, I believe.

Suppose there are ten…

Jesus asked the question, “But when the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

I was reading, again, about when Abraham negotiates with God for the sake of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It went from fifty righteous ones down to ten before the negotiations ended.  If there were only ten righteous people in the city, it would be spared.

I think Abraham knew he had pushed it as far as he could.  And there is some evidence that he still knew it would not be enough.

Life is good right now.  I’m enjoying a renewed sense of purpose, a refreshed relationship with my wife, and the unexplored territory of a stronger faith in God.

But, will it be enough?

When I come to the desert, the battle, the place of testing and fear, will my heart remain true?

I believe it will.  But, sometimes I’m not sure.

The nature of man tends toward wanting our own way.  Our hearts seem bent on selfishness, on fear, on hatred.  We run from God, not to Him.

And the church is much the same.  We don’t want preaching the convicts us.  We don’t want to hear about tithing, sexual purity, deep commitment to following God’s word.

What if, when Jesus comes looking, He can’t find us, find me.

I’m here God.  I’m coming after you.  I want more of you.

And when it’s dry, or I’m lost, help me!  You’re my only hope.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

He is jealous for me,

loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,

bending beneath the weight of His wind

and Mercy

All of a sudden,

I am unaware of these afflictions

Eclipsed by glory

And I realize just how beautiful You are

And how great Your affections are for me

I sang those words tonight, sang them with everything that is in me.  But do I believe them?  Do I live them in such a way that would lead me to leap off of a cliff in expectation of His arms beneath me?

Quite honestly, I don’t think I do.  The season I am in has me reeling as I find myself with no options but to wait on God.  I have done what needed to be done.  I have been faithful in what God has given me and nothing is turning out right.

I need a job.  I have not had steady, life-supporting work since April.  Because of trying to work, I have no unemployment, no insurance, and no where else to turn.  Our finances, our utilities, our home are all threatened and life feels like it is on shaky ground.

Do you know that there is no better place to be?

Time to put up or shut up.  When you can not depend on anyone but Jesus, you realize that you never could depend on anyone but Him.  I realize that all along, I was really dependent on myself.  And that is a bad place to be.

That is not my home, my refuge.  That is not the rock I would build my house on.

He is my strong tower.  He is my refuge, my fortress.

No Turning Back

“I have decided…”

Today, I have a decision to make. Will I let God be God in my life? Will I see the storm around me and take my eyes off Jesus? Will I trust Him or me? And it is a choice. I can begin my day declaring the faithfulness of my God or worrying about my future. I can look into His word and believe it to be true or I can trust my own faulty intellect and wisdom.

“…to follow Jesus.”

He is the way, the truth and the life. There is no other name that saves us. He is the Alpha and the Omega.

“Though none go with me…”

I can’t trust others to lead the way, though God is faithful to put His soldiers to walk beside me. He will provide teachers to guide me but I must look to Him to complete His work in me. I must see Him and Him alone as the “Author and Finisher of my faith.” And when everyone seems to have abandoned me, a lie that satan has used for a long time, I will trust Jesus to reveal the angels that guard me, the prophets who have not bent their knee to Baal, the Timothy that is still serving at my side.

“The world behind me…”

I don’t come to Jesus empty-handed. I come to Him clutching the pain of my past, the cares of my present, the worries of my future. I come to Him with a mind filled with the enemies lies, a heart broken by the history of man’s bad choices, and my own stupidity. I come to Him and lay all that down. And before Him, I CAN let it go.

“The cross before me.”

Letting go of myself hurts. “Dying to self,” is what the world considers ridiculous. Laying my will down is something my heart rebels against. How will I protect myself? How will I get what I need? How will I have a life worth living?

I have had enough of me, Lord. I have seen the fruit of my efforts, the results of my plans and I am done with it. I want You. I want the power of Your resurrection, the victory of Your crucifixion, Your glory revealed in me.

I want You!

No turning back…

Laish

Of the tribes of Israel, there is none that leaves a blacker mark than the tribe of Dan.  Interesting that the name means “Judge” but I’ll leave that for another post.

Israel was sent into the promised land to clear out the inhabitants because of the evil they were doing.  Sexual immorality, greed, child sacrifice being high on the list of their offenses.  But there appears to be one notable exception, the town of Laish.

I don’t know much about them, their practices, their religion.  The bible tells us that they were quiet and secure, and had wealth.  It would seem that, from the narrative, that they were to be left alone.  But to Dan, a tribe that had forsaken God, they were a gold mine.

We know that Dan had not “come into their inheritance” yet.  Seems an innocuous statement but it reveals a complacency, a lack of faith.  Israel had been told to go in and possess the land.  They had been there many, many years at this point.  And yet Dan still didn’t have their inheritance.  It can be surmised that this was due to their lack of faith.  The area that was allotted them was “too difficult,” so they went looking for another.  They wanted an easier prize.

Our struggles with addiction, our anger with God over “not coming through” smell a lot like the tribe of Dan.  And the evil, the sad horror of the sins we commit as we take the “path of least resistance” mar the name of Jesus and separate us further from His will.

What seems impossible to you?  What exhausts you just in thinking about it?  What feels so overwhelming that you can’t bear the weight of it?  Know that you have a choice.  Know that you want what only God can handle.  And know that, everyday, innocents die when we choose to not step out in faith.

It may sound like I’m condemning.  To my shame, I spent 40 years addicted to pornography.

This is a battle cry!  Fight!  Go save them!  Stand up!  Live!  That is the life of faith.

The Power of Being Clueless

I was reading again the story of Joseph and his dreams in Genesis 37.  It is one of those moments that makes you smack your head and go, “what was he thinking?”  I have heard people talk about his arrogance, how God used his brothers to bring him down a notch or two.  He can be seen as someone who thought he was above his brothers.  After all, he gave a “bad report” about them.

Was it pride that made him give a bad report or were his brothers doing something wrong that deserved a less than positive response?  Was it temerity that caused him to share his dreams?  What would have happened if he had kept it all to himself?  What if he feared his brother’s anger and retaliation so much that he said nothing at all?

Here’s my take on this; Joseph was oblivious.  He was so clueless (though, no doubt an intelligent guy) about how others would perceive what he said.  He hadn’t developed the filter that would allow him to understand how others would take what he shared.

And it was a good thing.

He shared his dreams and God’s will was done.  He gave a bad report and God’s will was accomplished – for an entire nation.  He served, was a slave, and the lives of his family were saved.  He took what came and was made the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

Fast forward a few thousand years to me, today.  You’ve read my posts and seen a bit of my struggle.  The underlying issue is I want to know what’s coming.  I want to know why I face my issues.  I want to know what doors will be opened and when.  All these questions that I want answered.

But I’m clueless.

In light of what Joseph went through, not a bad place to be.

In Faith

I am struggling right now with knowing how to be responsible, take care of my family, and yet be a man of faith.  How do you leap off a cliff, trusting Jesus to catch you when it isn’t just you that dies if He says no?

I don’t believe that He will honor foolishness.  No wait, that’s not true.  He honors foolishness where He is concerned.  Doesn’t the bible say that He will use our foolishness to shame the wise?  Well, I guess to be more precise, it says that He will use what seems foolish to the world to shame the wise.  But then that brings us back to me being willing to act on what seems like foolishness.  Does it need to be acceptable to me for me to trust that God will enter in?  That seems backwards.  I should act on what God directs and know that He is in it.  I accept it because He has made His will apparent.

Ah, but there’s the rub, I’ve heard myself and many others calling something God’s will when it was only my own, their own will.

I love music.  I love to worship.  Is my desire to be a worship pastor something that I should act on?  Is it God’s will or is it mine?  I want it so badly that it clouds my reasoning.  God is using me in worship ministry right now.  I sing and dance and play for my church and find so much joy in it.  Why do I need to do it full time?  Why do I need to be paid to do it?  Is it God’s calling on my life to quit my job and seek to be full time in ministry?

There are two sides to my writing.  I figure things out as I write and I hope that it helps others figure things out too.  People have different callings, different purposes for their lives, different questions that they ask themselves.  My hope and prayer is that in me asking and talking that we will all come to see God for who He really is.  It is my dream that we would all go forward as people of faith, people that are confident in the goodness of God, the kindness of our Savior.

I don’t have the answers.

I do have my King.

Maybe the question is really, will I trust Him to get me where He wants me to be?  Do I believe that He is strong enough to move me and loving enough to want to get me there?

YES!  YES HE IS!!

My Shield

“Take up the Shield of Faith!”

I have heard this in many sermons and books.  We have cute little costumes for our children and muddled ideas in our heads.

“Take up the Shield of Faith!”

How do I “take up” an idea so elusive as Faith?  What kind of protection is a faith such as mine?  And just so we’re clear, this is the one piece of armor that appears to be totally mine.  It is my faith in my God that protects me from the darts of the evil one.  So why even hold up what is shaky and weak at best?

The shield that Paul is referring to in Ephesians was probably the shield that came to be known as the door shield, interestingly enough.  It was a large shield, two feet by four feet, made of heavy would covered by animal hide and then iron.  In the Roman phalanx, it became an almost impenetrable wall that nothing could get through.  It only worked well in the phalanx since this was dependent on the group all sticking together and becoming, virtually, a moving fortress.

So wait, let me get this straight.  The shield carries the idea that it protects against what would try to get in and works only when we stick together.  So my faith, what I protect myself against the lies of the devil with, is a door that I can open or shut that was never intended to be worked out by myself.  But how do I define, develop, build this shield so that it is functional and powerful?

By asking the questions.  “What do I believe about God?  Who do I think that God is?  What has Jesus done for me?  How does He see me?”  Questions like this and the answers that we find in the Bible are what build and develop our faith.  And, to clarify once again, answers to these questions that don’t come from the Bible will define our faith too, and are the reasons why so many of us have such weak shields.

Hold on!  Then my faith doesn’t come from me alone.  It is developed by what God reveals Himself to be through scripture and my relationship with Him.  My faith, what I am protected by, is the sum of all my failings and victories, confusion and resolution, doubts and answers that I have seen in my walk with my Lord.  How He has brought me through, the truth that I see as He has lead me.

So maybe it is not just my faith, but His Faith in me that work together to protect me, that serves as a door to my life.

What will I let in?  What has He let in to move me, grow me?  And, do I believe what He says?

He already has said He believes in me.